When you really need a hospital, don’t settle for a highway sign with a capital “H” on it.
You need the real thing, not just a sign pointing to it. While in other places Jesus told us to look for the signs of His coming, here He cautions us about a dependence on signs when hard data is available.

Pharisees and Signs
These men would try anything to discredit Jesus. After witnessing multitudes of healings and deliverances, they demanded some sort of sign from Jesus. I see them as desperate, small minded, and distracted by their hate for Jesus. Jesus was not so kind. He said they were an evil and adulterous generation.

  • Evil—they were the ones in league with the devil.
  • Adulterous—they had broken their vows to love God and were courting power instead.

All their energies were spent toward evil, not good, and wickedness not virtue, and these were the leaders of the people.

Signs and Significance
Several words are connected to the word, “sign:”

  • Significance—having an important meaning beyond itself,
  • Signify—to function as a symbol of a higher or abstract truth, and
  • Signal—a gesture or object set forth to express needed information.

All of these words share the central characteristic of a sign—it is removed from what it signifies.

  • A hospital sign is not a hospital.
  • The significance of the Constitution lies beyond the document itself.
  • A hurricane warning pennant is not the hurricane.

The Pharisees missed the reality in front of their eyes and desired instead a sign they could argue about without facing the truth it represented. This was wicked and adulterous.

Face the Truth
Still, Jesus gave them a sign, that of Jonah. His adventure with the great fish was a prophecy of the death and resurrection to come. This sign would do them little good in the days ahead but it is helpful to us. Jesus pronounced horrible impending judgment on those who would ignore the signs given to them. Realities, not the signs pointing to them, are the important things. If they failed to fill their lives with spiritual realities, the evil that vacated their hearts would come back in even greater strength. This was the destiny of those who preferred signs to what the signs signified.

The Family
While Jesus was teaching, His mother and His brothers and sisters came to the house where He was speaking. We are not told why they came. From other sources in the Bible we know that, while Mary always believed, James and the other half-siblings of Jesus did not believe until after the Resurrection. What pain this must have been for Mary! Indeed, as Simeon prophesied, a sword pierced her heart. Perhaps Mary had brought her children to Jesus to convince them that He was who she said He was. His miracles would be a sign to them.

Someone informed Jesus that they had arrived outside. His response was a strange one. He pointed at His disciples and said,

“Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

This was and is the reality, not a sign pointing to it. Living a life of obedience is both a sign pointing to Jesus and it is the reality of Jesus in our lives.

Matthew 12:38-50

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Lord Jesus, thank You for the reality of Your presence in my life. It is so significant but it is much more than a sign—It is the real thing! Holy Spirit, make my life a sign pointing others to Jesus. May Your Word be heard in my words. May Your love be felt in my dealings with others. May the reality of Your abiding residence in me, O Holy Ghost, flow from my life today and everyday. May those who seek the reality of Your Gospel find it in me. Help me recognize the signs of Your soon appearing and be ready when You return. Amen and amen.

Signs Are Everywhere
Words and Music: Kittie Louise Suffield

1. The King is coming in glory To catch His bride away,
It may be in the morning It may be at midday,
At the even or midnight; The trump will sound so clear,
The dead in Christ, and we that live, His voice shall hear.

The King is coming, hallelujah! He’s coming in the air,
The fig tree is budding, The signs are everywhere,
The saints are looking ever upward While journ’ing on their way.
He’s coming, hallelujah! To catch His bride away.

2. Behold! He cometh, and leaping, And skipping o’er the hills;
Like the young roe, like the young hart, My soul with rapture thrills;
Thru the window He’s looking, Thru the lattice work is seen,
The winter’s past, the rain is o’er, The figs are green.


3. The King is coming, Be ready, To meet Him on that day;
With your heart right, with your robes white, And in this holy way;
Like the lightning that flashes In the twinkling of an eye,
Our Lord shall come to claim His own, He’s drawing nigh.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

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